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Rosemarie Gehring, North Harford Rec Center director, dies

Rosemarie Gehring, who directed the North Harford Playfield recreation center and athletic fields for 33 years and expanded its range of programs, died of heart disease Dec. 6 at Stella Maris Hospice. She was 71 and lived in Cockeysville.

Born in New York City, she was the daughter of John J. Campbell, an accountant, and his wife, Rose, who worked for the Internal Revenue Service.

She moved to Baltimore’s Northwood neighborhood as a 4-year-old and attended St. Matthew School. An athlete, she played basketball at Mercy High School, from which she graduated in 1965.

Growing up in Northeast Baltimore, she was a regular at the North Harford Playfield on Hamlet Avenue near Old Harford Road. At age 16, when there was an unanticipated vacancy on its coaching staff, she applied for a job.

“There she was, still in Mercy uniform, one afternoon after school,” said Doris King, who lives in The Villages, Fla. “I said to myself, ‘Who is this?’ And she taught me to play basketball.”

She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree at Mount St. Agnes College in Mount Washington, where she also played basketball. She later received a master’s degree from the Johns Hopkins University.

She taught for several years at the old Baltimore Academy of the Visitation on Roland Avenue and left its classrooms each afternoon and drove to the Rec and Park Center, where she continued her coaching. She stopped teaching after a few years and was named the center’s director in 1971. She remained at the director’s post for 33 years and had worked at North Harford for 41 years.

Ed Boston, the retired Recreation and Parks district supervisor, said, “She was an excellent center director. She accepted people as they were and was a valuable asset to our department. She also serviced the entire community. I recall her as a positive, outgoing person who had a positive personality.”

“Rose was well educated and could have done anything in the world,” said Ms. King. “She loved that job. The kids called her Miss Rose and they respected her.”

She met her future husband at the center.

“I had just moved to Baltimore from Hawaii and wanted to shoot some hops at the center,” said H. Scott Gehring, her husband. “I was outside the basketball court and here comes this tall, skinny lady who wants to know where’s my rec card. I resisted at first and we got into a debate. They she told me the card cost 25 cents. Then she asked if we could play a round. She was an outstanding player.”

Her said that his wife saw generations of Northeast Baltimore families at the center.

“Children she had coached brought their children back to North Harford,” he said.

Mrs. Gehring expanded the range of programs the small center offered. She secured permission from a nearby Marine Corps Combat Engineer Battalion facility to use its gym. She then had a place for indoor door lacrosse and soccer. She and her staff made their own indoor soccer nets. She also talked administrators at Northern Parkway Junior High School into opening its gym to her programs.

“We only had a small building, but she managed to find extra places and made a much larger recreation program,” said Ms. King, who later joined the North Harford staff and worked alongside Ms. Gehring as a senior leader.

“She made North Harford a great place to grow up,” said Ms. King. “Things grew with her. Before long she had organized a 52-team girls’ basketball tournament, which was amazing, for a small center. She recruited the Catholic CYO teams and even brought in groups from Baltimore County.”

While her home base at the rec enter was small — there was room for ping pong and pool tables — she also had dancing, cooking, crafts and woodworking and classes. She also offered softball and archery.

“In 2002 I got to carry the Olympic Torch for one block along Wilkens Avenue,” said Ms. King. “She organized three busloads of kids and parents to be there. They wore T-shirts printed with ‘Our torch bearer, Miss Doris.’ ”

She enjoyed travel and followed the Colts, Ravens and Orioles.

A funeral Mass will be offered at 10 a.m. Thursday at Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Church, Ware Avenue in Towson, where she was a member.

In addition to her husband of 47 years, a retired Baltimore County Public Schools area superintendent and Towson University adjunct professor, survivors include two sons, John Gehring of Washington, D.C., and Scott Gehring of Silver Spring; a brother, John J. “Jack” Campbell of Lewes, Del.; and four grandchildren.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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